Chef Michael Smith’s Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies

10 Aug

What does Canadian cuisine mean to you?

We live in a multicultural country, so while we don’t have such a distinctive set of national dishes as, say, Italy or Japan, we have much to relish in the culinary contributions of everyone from First Nations peoples to Mennonite settlers to the new wave of Hong Kong chefs living and working in Richmond, BC.

I think we tend to be shy about celebrating our own eclectic food heritage. That’s too bad. We have incredible chefs and home cooks in this country, not to mention an abundance of wonderful regional ingredients. From Saskatoon berries to Quebec strawberries, from moose to Arctic char, from fiddleheads to Okanagan wines–and let’s not forget maple syrup–our national bounty deserves at least one annual knife-and-fork-thumping celebration from coast to coast to coast.

Thankfully, Anita Stewart already got that party started. Since 2003, in response to the BSE crisis and in support of our struggling beef farmers at the time, she has invited all of us to sit down together and eat Canadian once a year on what’s now known as Food Canada Day. You can join in at a participating restaurant in your home town or at home, simply by cooking with local ingredients.

Anita posts an interactive map on her Food Day Canada website, showing what’s being served at tables across the country. Chefs submit menus and details of activities in advance, and anyone can post an account of what they’re making–complete with back stories.

This year Food Day Canada fell on August 4. I had the chance to eat local on Prince Edward Island–a big treat given that the province is home to sweet Malpeque oysters, salty grass-fed beef and creamy spuds.

I joined Chef Michael Smith and his son, Gabe, along with enough chefs, food writers, contest winners, family members, friends and camera crew to fill a small boat. Together we visited some local food heroes to gather bits and pieces for lunch.

Becky Townsend of Fortune Organics, where we gathered pea shoots, lettuce and fennel. Becky says she got lazy weeding this year after treating herself to a new sea kayak–her greens did not seem to suffer from the odd (and well-deserved) afternoon of neglect.

I get a big kick out of pulling veggies from PEI’s red soil; it feels like you’re harvesting Martian food.

No complaints here about consuming Canadian.  At Prince Edward Distillery, co-owner Julie Shore invited us to sample her potato vodka from the still.

Julie’s pigs are all about eating local too–they feast on the discarded mash from the vodka-making process.

Then we got on a boat and headed out to pick up oysters and lobster, while sampling local ales and feasting on smoked mussels.

If you ever visit Charlottetown, pop into Gahan House to taste their craft ales and see how it’s brewed.

Some of us took a dip too; the water looked lovely–I wish I’d brought my suit.

After Bloody Mary sorbet oysters and Prince Edward Distillery G & Ts, we arrived merry (and in the case of my sunscreen-dodging, red-haired friend Jamie Drummond, farmer-tanned) at Fortune Harbour. Fiddler Mark Haines played us in with jigs and reels “This always happens,” he yelled, grinning, from the dockside.

He and his accordion player Brad Fremlin kept things lively as we danced then feasted on the spoils of the day at harvest tables decorated with island potato sacks and jars of wildflowers lodged in red sand or lentils (Michael is the Canadian Lentils ambassador, so the multi-coloured pulses were our bonus guest star ingredient from Saskatchewan).

Everything was delicious…the salad left such sweet memories that I’ve already mentally allotted a space for pea shoots in my garden next year, And I’m going to try recreating the homemade ravioli with this wild mushroom and lentil recipe from Ottawa-based, PEI-born chef Norman Aiken.

Food Day Canada started getting hazy by around 3, when the effects of the sun and all that good PEI booze kicked in, so we headed back to the Inn at Bay Fortune for afternoon naps. We got together again for dinner just after a sunset, wich I watched unfold over Bay Fortune, where herons were silhouetted against rosy skies.

Anita Stewart herself joined us at the table. Our national food champion had started the day up on Signal Hill in St John’s with a pot-banging gang of Newfoundland chefs, so that she could stretch it out to the max. Her original plans to be in PEI for lunch were thwarted when her plane was diverted to Halifax, but she had time to enjoy another Canadian culinary tradition–coffee at Tim Hortons–as she waited for her next flight and watched happily on her phone as Food Day Canada started trending across the country on Twitter.

Tired but happy, Anita Stewart (far left) joins us in a toast to the success of her event.

I was so proud to be a part of this celebration, and next year I’m going to host a little lunch myself in my own backyard. I hope you’ll do something special too, wherever you live.

Until then, let’s set the mood by sharing favourite Canadian foods in the comments section below.

I’ll start:

Tourtiere on New Year’s Eve in Quebec…

Pancakes and bacon slathered in maple syrup for brunch…

Ice wine for dessert…

OK, over to you!

*     *     *     *     *

A highlight of our day in PEI was the surprising discovery that you can make really tasty cookies substituting some of the fat and flour with cooked lentils. I pinched this healthy recipe from the Canadian Lentils website.

Chef Michael Smith’s Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies

These awesome cookies will impress everyone at your table. The kids won’t know they have a secret ingredient, they’ll just know they taste good. But you’ll know they’re packed with healthy lentil puree. So it’s your choice: make cookies because they taste great or because they’re great for you!–Chef Michael Smith

Photo courtesy of


  • ½ cup (125 mL) of butter, softened
  • 2 cups (500 mL) of brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons (30 mL) of vanilla
  • ½ cup (125 mL) of lentil puree
  • 2 cups (500 mL) of all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) of salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of baking powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) of chocolate chips


Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Use your stand mixer or food processor to cream together the butter and sugar until they are smoothly combined. Add the egg, vanilla, and lentil puree and continue until the mixture is smooth once again.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, evenly distributing the finer powders amongst the coarser ones. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips. Roll into balls or drop by the spoonful, placing about two inches apart on a lightly oiled baking tray.

Bake for exactly 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes then serve, share, and get ready for the greatest hoodwink ever!

You may make your own lentil puree by simply pureeing four parts cooked lentils with one part water. It may also be stirred into any soup or stew.




11 Responses to “Chef Michael Smith’s Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies”

  1. Aube August 10th, 2012 at 5:43 PM #

    Lentil cookies! How intriguing, I’m a huge lentil fan AND chocolate chip cookie fan, so definitely making these. Thanks Val 🙂

    • Valerie Howes August 10th, 2012 at 6:03 PM #

      Come back and visit Toronto, Aube, and we will have choc chip lentil cookies and a nice cuppa tea.

  2. Jenn August 10th, 2012 at 6:07 PM #

    I can’t get enough of fresh Niagara grapes. I’m a fan of them in wine form as well.

    • Valerie Howes August 10th, 2012 at 6:09 PM #

      Ha! Me too.

  3. Milena Canizares August 10th, 2012 at 6:28 PM #

    Butter tarts! Does that count? 🙂

    • Valerie Howes August 11th, 2012 at 8:34 AM #


  4. mark August 10th, 2012 at 6:38 PM #

    Gonna have to go with scallops, preferably still dripping with the Atlantic.

  5. signe August 11th, 2012 at 11:43 PM #

    Hands down – maple syrup. I get twitchy if my open bottle gets low. I’m always eyeballing it to assess how many servings I have left and I never let it get below four servings before buying a back up bottle. I drizzle it over yogurt, into kefir, on pancakes, bacon, sausage, pork… I use it in place of sugar over plain cereal and oatmeal. It’s my topping of choice on vanilla ice cream and my fave flavour – real or artificial – in icing, baked goodies, sauces, candies. Beside my deathbed, there will be a box of that Canadian classic, the maple cream cookie and, assuming I can chew, I will eat them all day long, box after box, with endless cups of tea, until I can chew no more!

  6. Roisin August 13th, 2012 at 1:54 PM #

    Second to maple syrup (which I tend to hoard in large qualities) would be Quebec strawberries. They taste so much better than those that have to endure the long drive from California. When they are in season, there is no comparison. A close third goes to cherry tomatoes from our garden hand picked by our 3 year old. Something about it coming from his little hand makes it taste even sweeter.

  7. Gale August 14th, 2012 at 12:11 AM #

    Give me a Nanaimo Bar any day!!

    • Rigel Kat September 7th, 2012 at 1:02 AM #

      @Gale. Nanaimo bars are like sex; no such thing as a bad one, some are just better than others.

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